Posts Tagged ‘Italian cooking’

It is Memorial Day weekend and we are all inevitably thinking about cooking and eating. I’d like to share some recent cooking adventures with you.

I know my way around the kitchen (from finding the fridge to following a recipe) and have a repertoire of dishes that I like to cook, mostly Italian. Looking to expand dinner options (something without mozzarella, perhaps?), I recently exchanged cooking lessons with friends. I taught them a few Italian dishes and in turn, I learned some Thai and Russian dishes.

My friend Paula took a traditional Thai cooking class in Thailand while she was visiting her son who was studying there. We made beef satay, lemongrass mushroom soup, papaya salad and curry over fish.  The unforgettable, even if perhaps less-than-Thai, basil ice cream that followed the meal cooled our tongues after the spicy dinner.

I had no idea that Thai food was so labor intensive (especially the lemongrass that had to be cut amazingly thin. Hans, who joined in on the lesson, was very patient with the knife.) Paula introduced us to new flavors, from what she jokingly calling “Thai chocolate,” that is shrimp paste, to the savory and sweet combo of the papaya salad.  

Thai curryThai papaya salad










Galina, who you might remember from a recent blog post about Russian weddings, has been living in Ann Arbor for the last year while her husband is a scholar at the University of Michigan. She and her husband were going to a political science conference in Chicago and we mentioned a Russian restaurant there. When her husband said that they didn’t need to eat Russian food out since his wife cooks it so well at home, I nudged them in the direction of an informal cooking lesson.

We made Olivie (mixed potatoes, carrots, eggs, peas, pickles, onion and sausage mixed with mayo) and “herring under the coat” (Seledka pod shuboi/ Shuba). This was a mix of pickled herring, potatoes, eggs and beats. It was delicious. We ended with a great apple pie that was almost like a meringue. Now when we go apple picking this fall, we’ll have something new to make besides American pie and apple sauce.

While we ate, I thought of my ethnically Russian grandfather. I don’t remember him cooking and I don’t remember my grandmother, who grew up in a traditionally Polish household, cooking anything Russian. I wish I had known enough to ask him about his childhood, family history and mother’s recipes. Instead, I can only imagine that perhaps these were dishes that he might have eaten.

Russian dishesRussian apple pie










I showed Paula how to make bucatini all’amatriciana (read an article I wrote about the dish in a recent local Edible Communities publication) and chicken saltimbocca. “Saltimbocca,” traditionally made with veal, has a name that means “jump in the mouth” because of the delicious combination of veal, sage, prosciutto, butter and vermouth. (We also prepared a dessert, but since it failed, I’ll gloss over right here.)

With Galina, we made a selection of pizzette and lasagna. Florentines make lasagna with bechamel sauce, instead of ricotta, but my time-saving secret is to add a bit of heavy cream instead. The sauce immediately lightens and thickens and you’re done in moments. If you are making pizza at home, I can’t emphasize the importance of buying a pizza stone (you can usually find one under $20.00 at a store like Bed Bath and Beyond.) It heats the pizza from below and helps to perfect your crust.

No matter what Italian dishes we ate, we ended the meal with limoncello. (Perchè no?)

Bucatini all'amatricianaLasagna










Thank you so much to Paula and Galina for kindly sharing their expertise and kitchens with me. Please raise your glass to these wonderful women and the next cooking adventure!

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